For 10 years the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has had
a significant influence on urban design in the UK. Now Garnering attention from
Australians for its achievements, many urban leaders in this country are now calling
for a local n Australian equivalent of CABE to be established.

At a meeting held at Melbourne Town Hall on 22 April, 45 people met to discuss both
the concept and plan for action for CABE DownUnder, the working title of an urban
transformation initiative with aspirations of emulating the work achieved by its UK

One of the founding members of the group, architect Bill Chandler says that CABE
DownUnder has been inspired by the work of its UK counterpart, but the group has a
far more humble genesis.

“We’ve been holding informal meetings each second Tuesday since the mid 80’s,
sometimes three3 people attended, sometimes 50 people, the group came out of these
discussions. It is a voluntary exercise for the most part, a network of like minded
individuals rather than an organisation.

“The stimulus to create CABE DownUnder came from the UK but the form and
format is likely to be different. Now we’re seeing where the initiative is going and
where we will go next.”

With its roots in Melbourne, the initiative has now branched out, with a diverse
and growing range of support and involvement from people from across Australia
and even the UK. Compared to other organisations, Mr Chandler says that CABE
DownUnder has broadened its outlook with respect to urban design.

“When I use the term urban design, it’s how cities and towns function, not just
aesthetic design.

“There’s been lively debate about [CABE Downunder’s] form or status, whether it
should be a commission for cities or more of a stimulus group.

“The initiative is quite inclusive, compared to more territorial organisations that only
focus on one particular area. We’re looking at the socio-economic dimensions as well
as the physical – the practice of good architecture.”

At the Built Environment Meets Parliament conference held earlier this month, CABE
DownUnder’s volunteers handed out a brochure outlining the nature and intent of
its agenda, introducing the initiative to the conference’s most influential delegates.

The next step in the plan is to issue a prospectus in August, aimed at giving form
to the initiative, providing sufficient substance to influence federal, state and local
politicians, relevant bureaucracies, enterprises, the media and the general community
of its benefits. A compendium of relevant ideas, examples and data detailing the
evolving underpinning for the initiative is also planned for release by the end of 2010.

“The compendium will be a 20 page online publication detailing all the underpinnings
and principles of CABE DownUnder alongside the natural urban design protocol.
It will be an ongoing compendium with resource documents, statements and other

“The prospectus will be hard copy but electronic as well – short, sharp, precise and

A follow up of the initial 22 April meeting, the group’s next meeting on 13 July at
Melbourne Town Hall will give the opportunity for two-way feedback and input for
the prospectus and compendium.

“We’re expecting some 50 to 60 people to attend the meeting, including some fairly
senior and influential people.

“We’re watching cities go backwards, Sydney aren’t ticking all the boxes and there
are things in Melbourne that aren’t ticking the boxes. As our population grows and as
climate change hits us, we are going to have to do things better.”

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